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The crying need to fix the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Because Aaron Swartz should never have been a criminal defendant:

Over the past two years, Aaron was forced to devote much of his energy and resources to fighting a relentless and unjust felony prosecution brought by Justice Department attorneys in Massachusetts. His alleged crimes stemmed from using MIT’s computer network to download millions of academic articles from the online archive JSTOR, allegedly without “authorization.” For that, he faced 13 felony counts of hacking and wire fraud (pdf), which carried the possibility of decades in prison and crippling fines. His case would have gone to trial in April.

The government should never have thrown the book at Aaron for accessing MIT’s network and downloading scholarly research. However, some extremely problematic elements of the law made it possible. We can trace some of those issues to the U.S. criminal justice system as an institution, and I suspect others will write about that in the coming days. But Aaron’s tragedy also shines a spotlight on a couple profound flaws of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in particular, and gives us an opportunity to think about how to address them….

The EFF makes to suggestions for reform of a Draconian law, both well worth pursuing.

Via Electronic Freedom Foundation.

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